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Top Regions, Top Red Wines

Below, a guide to America’s top red wine regions and some of the grape varieties for which they’re famous.

    By Ray Isle

Santa Barbara, CA | Paso Robles, CA | Monterey County, CA | Napa Valley, CA | Russian River Valley, CA | Willamette Valley, OR | Walla Walla Valley, WA | Columbia Valley, WA | Long Island, NY

Santa Barbara County, CA: Syrah

Basic Wine Picks

2005 Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Syrah ($24): Toasty and smoky, with black fruit and a juicy finish.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2006 Beckmen Vineyards Purisima Mountain Vineyard Block Six Syrah ($50): Formidable in structure, with deep blackberry fruit.

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Paso Robles, CA: Zinfandel

Basic Wine Picks

2006 Dover Canyon Winery Cujo Zinfandel ($19): Big, dark, juicy black raspberries.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2005 Turley Wine Cellars Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel ($38): Mocha and blackberry, with plenty of peppery spice.

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Monterey County, CA: Pinot Noir

Basic Wine Picks

2006 Poppy Monterey County Pinot Noir ($19): Light red cherry fruit with a touch of green herbs and peppery acidity.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2006 Paraiso Vineyards West Terrace Pinot Noir ($40): Bold dark cherry fruit with licorice and cinnamon.

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Napa Valley, CA: Cabernet Sauvignon

Basic Wine Picks

2005 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($25): Classic currant notes, with hints of sweet oak.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2005 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($160): Robust, with luscious berry and currant fruit.

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Russian River Valley, CA: Pinot Noir

Basic Wine Picks

2007 DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($24): Light but with lots of depth and black cherry fruit.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2006 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir ($60): Deep and complex, full of ripe cherry and spice.

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Willamette Valley, OR: Pinot Noir

Basic Wine Picks

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir ($19): Light-bodied and bright, with wild berry flavor.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2005 Domaine Drouhin Laurène Pinot Noir ($65): Aromatic and firm in structure, with layers of berry fruit.

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Walla Walla Valley, WA: Syrah

Basic Wine Picks

2005 Saviah Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah ($30): Juicy blackberry fruit with aromatic floral notes.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2006 K Vintners Cougar Hills Syrah ($50): Potent blackberry fruit with a hint of black olive and lots of spice.

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Columbia Valley, WA: Cabernet Sauvignon

Basic Wine Picks

2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($17): Juicy currant and cherry flavors with sleek tannins.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2005 Betz Family Winery Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon ($55): Powerful and intense black currant fruit, dense tannins and tobacco nuances.

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Long Island, NY: Merlot

Basic Wine Picks

2001 Lenz Estate Selection Merlot ($23): Focused black plum and dark cherry fruit with modest tannins.

Benchmark Wine Picks

2006 Bedell Cellars Reserve Merlot ($50): Ripe plum and black cherry fruit with hints of espresso and vanilla.

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Published November 2008

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